ESPN, ABC Unwrap Record NBA Christmas Ratings

The NBA's five-game Christmas Day schedule drew big ratings for ABC and ESPN, including giving ESPN its highest-rated triple-header ever, according to Nielsen overnight numbers.

ESPN averaged a 2.1 rating across the three games, up 17% from 2010. Last year, ESPN only aired a primetime double-header. While most of the games were down from 2011 individually, last year's Christmas Day slate was the first day of the 2011-12 NBA season, due to the four-month lockout.

The 12 p.m. ET matchup between the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets drew a 2.7 rating, which matched what ESPN did in that slot back in 2010. That was down 21% from 2011's 12 p.m. game between the Celtics and New York Knicks that was aired on TNT, although due to last year's lockout, Dec. 25 was the first day of the NBA season. As for ESPN's primetime games, the 8 p.m. contest between the Houston Rockets and Chicago Bulls drew a 1.7 rating, down 11% from last year's game at the space (but up 21% from 2010). The 10:30 p.m. game between the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers drew a 2.0 and was ESPN's second-highest rated primetime Christmas Day game ever, eclipsed only by last year's game in this slot (2.3).

The three-game set also averaged 2.8 million viewers.

Over on ABC, which aired a double-header at 3 and 5:30 p.m., saw its best overnight rating ever for the early window of a doubleheader, with the New York Knicks-Los Angeles Lakers game drawing a 5.9 rating, up 5% from last year's early ABC game. The finals rematch between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat in the late game drew a 6.0 overnight rating, down 8% from last year's game in that space.